(Clip of owl sound: “hoo hoo hoo.”) Who? You! If you have 15 minutes to spare over the next few days you can take part in one of the country’s biggest amateur science activities. And you don’t even have to leave the house, although it might help to look out the window. It’s the Great Backyard Bird Count, although technically you don’t even need a backyard. And it’s happening between February 16th and February 19th. All you have to do is count the different birds you see during a walk or while sitting on the porch and then report your findings to a website.
The Great Backyard Bird Count started 10 years ago. It’s a joint project of the Cornell University Ornithology Lab and the National Audubon Society. Last year, volunteer contributors submitted 60,000 bird checklists, which included about seven and half million individual bird sightings representing 623 different species. And because so many people take part, the bird sightings are actually useful to scientists, who can take the observations and get an idea of what birds are where, and whether the birds are reacting to climate change or urbanization. To take part, just go to birdcount.org.